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LeBron James led the NBA in minutes played last season as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Now a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, James, Lakers coach Luke Walton said the team is taking the longterm view in regard to how many minutes James logs this season, his 16th in the league.
“We’ve got four years,” Walton told reporters Wednesday. The James-led Lakers tip off their 20018-19 season Thursday night at Portland.
James, who will turn 34 in December, signed a four-year, $153-million deal with the Lakers in July.
“We want to make sure we’re not only playing at our best come the end of the season but that he’s fresh,” Walton said. “And that’s a goal for us. And it’s a goal that we’re on a journey and it’s not a one-year journey. We’re continuing to try to and be our best season by season, but also as each one goes on.
“And obviously, he gives us the best opportunity to be at our best.”
Walton refused to be pinned down to giving a specific number on how many minutes James will play this season, saying his goal is to keep the number in a “reasonable” range.
James averaged 36.9 minutes for Cleveland while playing all 82 games for the first time in his storied career last season.
“That will probably change with how we’re playing as a team, where we’re at for the season,” Walton said. “We’ll try to keep him at a reasonable number.”
Walton explained he wants to utilize a longer bench this season, which could help limit James’ time on the floor, depending on how he does it.
“We want to play fast, and to do that we got to get guys in and out and in and out,” Walton said. “So we’ll get a good amount of guys out there.”
For his part, James, as he did all season a year ago, said him playing in 82 games is simply a matter of how his body feels.
“Didn’t have a number [of games in mind] last year,” James said earlier this week. “Just go out and if my body is feeling good, I am out there. If my body is not able to perform at the level that I would like to play for my teammates, then I won’t.”
Walton, though, did not discount James playing in every game for a second consecutive season, saying it’s “definitely a possibility.”
“Rest, with me, is always kind of, you’ve got to take it as it comes,” Walton said. “See how the season’s going, get to those tough stretches. Are there nagging injuries happening or not?
“And that’s when you would do it. We’re not going to just rest somebody just to rest them. Only if the body or mind needs it, in my opinion.”